12/17/2011 11:33PM

Blast from the past....10 from 1979


My mind sometimes drifts to the "good old days" and recollections of favorite racehorses from decades ago.  Just for fun, here's a look back at ten favorites who raced at Saratoga in 1979.  Yes, that was 32 (!) years ago, the first year I had easy access to a car.  How many people out there in cyber-land remember these stars?  


Above:  Smart Angle (6/2/77 - 2001, by Quadrangle - Smartaire, by Quibu).  Champion 2-year-old filly.  7 wins to 3, $414,217.  Selima S. - G1, Matron S. - G1, Spinaway S. - G1, Poinsettia S. - G3, Adirondack S. - G3, Lucky Penny S. - R.  Smart Angle was a half- or full sister to Smarten, Smart Heiress and Quadratic.  She was also the dam of Houston.

Above:  Star de Naskra outfinishes Cox's Ridge and The Liberal Member in the 1979 Whitney.  Star de Naskra (2/15/75 - 10/1/00, by Naskra - Candle Star by Clandestine) was 1979's champion sprinter.  36 starts, 15-10-4 $587,391. Star de Naskra won eight stakes - including the Cornhusker Handicap (G2), Whitney Stakes (G2), Carter Handicap (G2), and Bold Ruler Stakes.  The goodnatured horse sired Sewickley and Carr de Naskra.

Note the infield crowd.  I remember lying down on the steeplechase 'cushions' that were kept in the infield, although I have no memory of toilets, betting windows or food out there.   There must have been, though!

Above:  A personal favorite, although not a top stakes filly, was Rio Rita (b. 3/30/77, by Secretariat - Java Moon, by Graustark).   17 starts - 4 wins, 3 seconds, 8 thirds.  $75,743. Third in the Miss Woodford Stakes.  Dam of SW Balarat.  I guess she was a favorite for obvious reasons - being a daughter of Secretariat, who won impressively at Saratoga, from a lovely Darby Dan family.

Angel Cordero, Jr. up.

Above:  Island Kiss (b. 3/26/75, by Hawaii - Fun House by The Doge), raced 32 times during her three-year campaign.  She won 7 races and earned $203,833.  While a stakes win eluded her, she placed second or third in 8 stakes and set a track record at Saratoga - 1:48 for 9 furlongs.   Half-sister to Argentinian champion sire Good Manners.

Mike Venezia up, before the Diana H.

Above:  Native Courier (ch. g., born 4/14/75, by Exclusive Native - Courtly Dee, by Never Bend).  51 starts from 1977 through 1982.  14-11-9, $522,635.  The beautifully bred turf specialist won 4 graded stakes and placed in many others.  His dam is one of the best in modern history.  Among her offspring were Althea, Aquilegia, Twining, Ali Oop, Ketoh, Princess Oola and Aishah.  She produced eight stakes winners.

Above:  Pearl Necklace (3/12/74 - 1991, by Ambernash - Another Jane by Traffic Judge).  This very popular stakes mare won 21 of her 48 starts, with 17 second- or third-place finishes, and she earned $737,862.  She won stakes at two (Tempted), three (G2 Gazelle, G3 Long Island), four (G2 Maskette and G3 Long Island) and five (G2 Diana, G2 Hempstead, G2 Shuvee, Flower Bowl, Geisha).  She raced 16 times in 1977 alone.  Pearl Necklace was a full sister to Nashua Stakes winner Our Escapade.

Above and below:  General Assembly (4/30/76 - 2005 - by Secretariat - Exclusive Dancer, by Native Dancer). 17 Starts: 7 - 6 - 1, $463,245.  The tremendously popular stakes colt set a track record winning the Travers by 15 lengths - 2:00 for 1 1/4 miles.  Also won the Hopeful (G1), Saratoga Special (G2), Vosburgh (G2) and Gotham (G2).  His dam was a half-sister to Exclusive Native, the sire of Affirmed.  

Above:  General Assembly, Jacinto Vasquez up, wins his Travers prep at Saratoga on August 4, 1979.  Below:  heading to the test barn.

Above and below:  Rockhill Native, the champion 2-year-old colt/gelding of 1979 (3/28/77 - 3/19/09, by Our Native - Beanery, by Cavan).  1st Futurity S.-G1, Blue Grass S.-G1, Sapling S.-G1, Cowdin S.-G2, Everglades S., Jefferson Cup.  Rockhill Native finished first in the Hopeful (above) but was disqualified and placed 6th.

Above:  State Dinner (4/11/75 - 2001, by Buckpasser - Silver Bright, by Barbizon).  23 starts, 8 wins, 5 seconds, 4 thirds, $537,859.  Won Suburban H. (G1), Century H. (G1), Metropolitan H. (G1), Whitney S. (G2), El Monte Stakes (L).  Sired the champion Family Style.  Half-brother to Banquet Table.

Above/below:  Rivalero (above, with Charlie Rose up and below, enjoying a roll).  Who didn't like this cantankerous, hard-knocking gelding by Riva Ridge - Dictates, by Bold Ruler?  (b. 3/31/76).  67 Starts: 17 - 8 - 7, earnings of $568,475.  Rivalero raced for eight years (I'm guessing his last starts were over the jumps, as he had three "maiden" appearances in a row, at age 9, before retiring). Won the G2 Roamer H., G3 Fayette H., G3 Christmas Day H.

Rick Nagy More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the memories. Was at aqueduct for turf classic when native couriers jockey dropped the whip at the top of the stretch and he lost 6 length lead deep stretch to lose to bowl game! Great horses. 70's saw greatest horses of all time. Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid. Affirmed, Alydar, Secretariat, Ruffian, Forego just to name a few!
Former Jockey and Agent E TIGER More than 1 year ago
Thank you for the photos and the memories Barbara,,,,,,I Have fond nenories of Saratoga and Belmont,,,,and being under contract to Homer Pardue,,,rideing in my first 3 races at Saratoga and Belmont 1978,,,,I like the picture of Mike Venezia,,,,he was a mentor and friend ,,,,boy was the 70s a Decade for Raceing or What?,,,,,We had 3 Triple Crown Winners,,,,Secretariat,,,,Slew,,,,Affirmed and Alydar,,,,Ruffian,,,Forego,,,Spectacular Bid,,,,We had Woody and Nerud and Wittingham,,,,,and the always clorful Angel Cordero Jr,,,,who would walk out to the paddock singing,,and slapping his whip,,,and I loved watching Baeza,,,,he was always so quiet and focused,,,,it was a great time for the sport and being a young kid with asspirations of being a Top Jockey,,,I Grew up right across the street from Belmont on Wellington Rd in Elmont,,,I Miss it Much,,,,thank you for the photos
Anne More than 1 year ago
I love that photo of your mom. She looks so regal sitting there. She will always be someone special to me. I was sad to see Dancing Spree as a member of this group. He was a favorite of mine and i have been trying to find his where-abouts. I did email a farm 2 years ago that was given to me through my research but sadly they never responded. He was a favorite of mine. Such a beautiful Chestnut and a son of Blitey whom I admired as well. I remember my pursuit of him before he was sent overseas. I have some memorable pictures from that day. I loved Aurora and made sure to visit the track when she was running. How can anyone forget her heartshaped marking? Of course you know my favorite, favorite... D'Accord. Who could ever forget his last birthday party where he just was not happy with the scary cake and the balloons. He felt we were all terrorists and should be treated that way. How much farther could he have gone to get away from the nut cases? Ha... Even with his not so steady legs, he moved as quickly as possible to try and hide out in the back corner of his paddock. I will always cherish that day. Thanks for the the blog and photos. We lost a great bunch who marked themselves in the history of this sport and our hearts. You captured them all with the spirit they showed.
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
Barbara, These pictures are beautiful, as always. I don't know if you or anyone else has noticed, but does it seem that these old pictures retain more of an "oil painting" quality as compared to the sharper digital images that are produced today? Do you notice a difference in shooting using film vs. digital? Your style is distinctive and has not changed much over the years, but the older images seem slightly different to me.
mauricio farias Chile More than 1 year ago
Rogi, the groom walking General assembly is not alive anymore his name was Jackson and he rubbed some nice horses, two Kentucky derby winners Foolish Pleasure and Genuine Risk then G A .who finish second to the Bid in the Derby, also rubbed What a Summer champion sprinter, Nearly on Time who beat Forego and many many others as he was Mr.Jolley top groom. I can say the man can take care of a good horse. Mauricio.
blivingston More than 1 year ago
Mauricio, what a wonderful and interesting comment! Thank you so much. I would have loved to have interviewed the groom....what stories I'm sure he could tell, of so many great horses..... - Barbara >>
mauricio farias - Chile- More than 1 year ago
Sorry Barbara. I was refering to rogi who posted a comment on Jackson attire, my english is just good to get by. Mauricio. < Mauricio, your English is great and I very much enjoy your thoughtful comments! I misread the Rogi line...but I see just what you meant. Thanks again! - Barbara >>
Dan P More than 1 year ago
I remember Native Courier very well. He was one of those types that really thrived at Saratoga. The last time I saw him run would have been the Seneca on closing day in 1980 or maybe 1981 when he lost to another Spa specialist Great Neck. What I always will miss from those days was how close you could get to the horses while they were being saddled. Greck Neck was quite on edge the day he won that race and I recall very vividly him rearing up after being saddled and wondering if being so close was such a good idea. Always liked the Tartan silks that Great Neck carried and if my fading memory serves me correct, Cordero was up that day and the win clinched the jockey title for him. Those were some great summers!
Michael Tonchuck More than 1 year ago
Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing! I was ten years old then, but remember almost all of these great horses. A wonderful blast from the past.
nick More than 1 year ago
wasnt pearl necklace nemesis back in those days a Greentree horse--i want to say bowl game but not sure thats right--i remember they both always showed up and took turns beating each other-- >
MARK LAMALVA More than 1 year ago
nick More than 1 year ago
thats right thank you barbara!!!!!
David & Susan More than 1 year ago
Curious, how did fans gain access to the infield those days? >
Reed Galinac More than 1 year ago
My first trip to the Spa was in 1982 (Runaway Groom's upset of Conquistador Cielo in the Travers), and as of that time, they were still allowing fans in the infield. At about the 1/16 pole, as I recall, between races, they laid down what amounted to a bunch of heavy planked skids across the main track, and folks walked back and forth. I don't recall that there were bathroom facilities, and for sure I never saw any concessions, and no betting windows. (Unless someone has some other recollection.) You went in there for the awesomness of being in the infield at the Spa, and you didn't need anything else. If I'm not mistaken, they did away with the process soon after that, as I was there for about 5 Travers in a row from 83-87, and I don't remember them still allowing infield access by that time. Anyone else have a recollection?
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Barbara and fellow commenters: I'd like to make everyone aware of a wonderful collection of horse racing videos on Youtube by a poster named cf1970. There are over 600 currently, with many from the 70's and 80's. I just watched Rockhill Natives Hopeful win and subsequent DQ - still as flagrant a mistake as it was way back when. I hope there are some here who are not aware of it and can enjoy revisiting some of their favorite old races. Just enter cf1970 in the search box and browse through some neat stuff.